Tasting tea is one of life’s pleasures. But the word taste also has a component that we can call evaluation. There’s a word with similar meaning in Chinese. The Chinese character consists of three mouth ideograms, which look like three boxes (mouths) stacked pyramid style. This word is “pin” and translates to evaluation. Evaluating tea is a skill that takes time to learn. Whereas sipping and drinking tea can be done from the beginning. The ability to evaluate comes from drinking and sipping. One can learn to evaluate teas in many ways. It is good to have a teacher that is generous with teachings. Though in North America, tea teachers are rare. So it is better to travel. And when you are on the road, in search of your teacher, it is good to have a teacher that you get along with and like.
Part of tea can be taught through a curriculum of teas. We can taste several teas from a specific origin to get familiar with their characteristics of the origin. At one tasting event, I sat next to a man who said that his wife only drank “Dan Cong Tie Guan Yin from Mu Zha”. And as a result she could tell you definitively what was not Mu Zha Dan Cong Tie Guan Yin. There is a philosophy which states if you understand one thing well, from that you can understand many things. To know what is not Mu Zha iron goddess is actually a very high level of skill. I was impressed by this approach because narrowing down the focus to a very rare tea, teaches so much, and in such an enjoyable way. It’s a win win even if you can’t put what you have learned into words. The experience alone is worth it.